Despite the sun almost always shining, the frigid cold is palpable in Aloft, a beautiful drama that finds characters seeking miracles in the face of despair.
With a terminally ill son Gully, Nana (Jennifer Connolly) ventures to a mystical healer, taking her other son Ivan in tow. In an icy rural expanse – we reside in the Arctic Circle for the entirety of the film – a healer waits, working with another child when Ivan’s pet falcon interrupts a procedure and sets a series of irrevocable events in motion.
It turns out Nana may be special, having seemingly healed the boy through touch, but Gully is not yet saved. She struggles with both sons as well as her potential powers, and a rift begins with Ivan; except we have to wait to figure out what is happening.
That’s because while that narrative unfolds, we jump into the future, as an adult Ivan (Cillian Murphy) lives his life as well in the rural cold, estranged from his mother, and raising falcons, just because. A journalist (Melanie Laurent) inquires about his life and the recluse Nana, seeking answers and a story about this mysterious healer.
The two tales reveal themselves simultaneously, slowly, both heading to dramatic finishes with tense peaks and boring valleys. There is symmetry throughout as a chilly backdrop makes itself always known: in one story a mother grasps with her dying son, and in another a son attempts to reconcile with his distant mother.
Written and directed by Claudia Llosa, impressive individual performances triumph over meaning, while the family drama becomes more compelling than the existential ponderings. Aloft is cold in a worse way too though, calculated in every step it seem, depressing and on the nose. There is force and power, yes, but no rhyme or reason, making this icy drama chilling but empty.